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From The Socialist newspaper, 11 October 2007

Civil servants march against cuts and privatisation

Workers from three government departments are marching in London on 12 October against the outsourcing and privatisation of hundreds of jobs. The attacks on staff in DEFRA (the agriculture department) and the former DfES departments of Innovation, Universities and Skills and for Children, Schools and Families are typical of what has prompted the PCS union's national executive to ballot for national industrial action. This ballot result is expected to be announced on 23 October.

In DEFRA, management intend to outsource estates, reprographics, post room, messengers and security, despite fears that services there would deteriorate and costs escalate.

In the other two departments, ten support-grade staff who had formerly worked in the DfES found out in July this year that they are to be moved to the private sector. This was done without consultation with the unions.

Since the announcement, more that 600 protest letters from staff of all grades have been sent to the permanent secretary, condemning this privatisation which is due to take place on 1 November.

The union has called a ballot through both of the ex-DfES departments, for a strike on 31 October unless management backs down.

Mick Philipsz spoke to Sheila Coote, who has been working for eight years in the department. She became a civil servant because a friend told her the department: "takes care of its people".

"When I look around as a support grade, a messenger, I see staff undermined by continual cuts and by the use of agencies and consultants. The politicians may make the policies but the civil servants do the work.

"When Labour came into power I was over the moon. But in the last few years I've been disillusioned. You only have to look at the privatisation of the NHS, which has affected me and my family. The government doesn't seem to understand that if you don't invest in people the decline in public services is only going to get worse.

"Brown talks about 'British values'. What values have you got in a department like my own where people aren't being treated respectfully at all?

"One thing has made me feel really good. My fellow workers have been brilliant. I've had support from people of all grades, including those that are paid a lot more than me. Which is why I'm going on the march next week and why I hope I'll be able to persuade my colleagues to go out on strike at the end of the month."

  • Assemble 12.15, Department for Children, Schools and Families, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1H 9NA. The demo goes past the DEFRA offices and finishes at the Emmanuel Centre, 9-23 Marsham Street, Westminster, SW1P 3DW.
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    In The Socialist 11 October 2007:

    Unity with the postal workers

    Gloucestershire shows determination

    Marching in support of the Burslem 12

    Anger at Leighton, Crozier and Brown

    Picket line round-up

    Determination to continue the battle

    Socialist Party NHS campaign

    Private hands off our NHS!

    What we think

    Brown's expedient election climb-down

    War and terrorism

    Anti-war movement upholds right to protest

    Burmese students join London march

    Socialism 2007

    Socialism 2007: Debates to sharpen your socialism

    Socialist Party news and analysis

    Windscale 1957

    Super-rich super-donators

    Any spare cash?

    Beat back the profiteers

    Cuts kill - no reductions in the fire service!

    Socialist Party feature

    1917 October Revolution: the working class took power

    International socialist news and analysis

    Darfur bloodshed fuelled by land and oil grab

    Iraq occupation: Brown's token gesture

    Workplace news and analysis

    Civil servants march against cuts and privatisation

    Bolton care workers fight on

    National Shop Stewards Network holds meetings around the country


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